A Mountain Playground: The MacIntyre Range

It’s not everyday you are blessed with the PERFECT day in the Adirondacks.  I say that with love!  I’ve hiked 15 high peaks so far and I will tell you that only 3 of the days had beautiful weather.  And this day, was exactly that.  Perfect. In every way.  This is my most cherished hike from this past winter.

I’ve had my eye on this hike for quite some time.  I knew that I would be going for a loop…as in looping the hike from start to finish.  Avalanche Pass was on my must-do list so this hike was meant to be.  My plan was to hike Iroquois, Algonquin and Wright Peak via Avalanche Pass.  This would be a tough feat, but I was up for the challenge!

I signed the trail register from the Loj trailhead at 8:00 a.m.  It was about 30 degrees, but not one single cloud in the sky. Not one.  Next to my name, I wrote “Come forth into the light of things…” That is exactly how I was feeling on this trip.  To be guided into the light through nature.  Clarity.  Freedom.  

I headed down the familiar trail to Marcy Dam, once again!

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I love the mountains in the winter.  I know I’ve said it before, but it becomes more and more true every time I reflect back on one of my hikes in the snow.

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Sunrise in the mountains…is there anything better?

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I walked on at a brisk pace and reached Marcy Dam in about 30 minutes. Just so breathtaking.

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I would continue following the yellow markers through Avalanche Camps.  I had hiked this trail before back in December when I climbed Mount Colden.  It’s a relatively flat foot trail that moves quickly.

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The scenery was absolutely beautiful.  The snow glistened as the sun beamed through the trees.   Peace and grace were whispering their prayers of well wishes and serenity.  The sound of snow crunching under foot…come forth into the light of things.

Come forth into the light of things…

That was the theme for this day without a doubt.  Those were the words that replayed over img_0098and over in my mind as I trekked on.

The 2.2 mile trail through Avalanche Pass was like a giant outdoor mountain playground!  Instantly, like a kid again! Ladders, bridges, more ladders (a few missing some rungs), big boulders, more ladders…it was PURE EXCITEMENT!  And very strenuous, might I add.

I love every minute of this portion of the hike!  And imagine, I hadn’t even begun ascending any peaks yet!

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img_9953img_0004The twists and turns lead you along some spectacular works of nature.  It was amazing.

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A frozen Avalanche Lake.  See that point all the way at the end?  That’s the direction I was headed…

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I would imagine this trail is just as beautiful in the warmer weather!  Up, up, up the ladders…walk, walk, walk along the bridges.

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I could have remained here, in this spot, forever.  It was…everything.  It encapsulated my entire being.  Peacefulness wrapped in adventure.  Adventure wrapped in serenity.  Serenity wrapped in beauty.  Beauty wrapped in freedom.  Freedom wrapped in stillness.

Come forth into the light of things…

At 11:17 a.m., after nearly 6 miles of hiking, the next junction was reached!  Before heading up the Algonquin trail, I stopped to take a rest.  Relax, refuel, recharge.

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Just before this point, I had met some other hikers who were both descending Algonquin at this point and another group heading up.  There were also the friendliest mountain steward on cross-country skis that I had the pleasure of chatting with briefly. She was patrolling this section of the trail to make sure everyone was safe. Peace of mind and many, many grateful thanks to her!

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I crossed the bridge as if to continue onto Lake Colden in order to find a quiet place to rest.  I sat by a babbling brook, wrote in my journal, while eating some soup and a roast beef sandwich I purchased at Stewart’s Shop Gas Station much, much earlier that morning.  Hey, a girl’s gotta eat!  So I made it count the best that I could.  I was feeling extremely grateful for the warm soup and sandwich.  I would not have been able to conquer this next portion of the climb without it!

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After 20 minutes of sitting in mountain meditation, while the babbles of the brook filled my heart with soul melodies, it was back over the bridge to begin the ascent up the Algonquin Trail.

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The plan was to ascend via Boundary Peak, then hit Iroquois (back up and over Boundary) before trekking up Algonquin.  If I had any gas left in my tank, Wright would be waiting for  the finale.

I will preface with this:  By far, the HARDEST trail I’ve climbed to date.  BY FAR!  For me, these next 2 Adirondack miles would test every ounce of my strength, grit and will.  I won’t lie….there were a few breakdowns along the way. But…it was also one of the most BEAUTIFUL trails I have climbed to date!

Is that how life works though?  Beauty with the brutal.  The harder the climb, the greater the victory.  If you believe it, you can achieve it.

Yes…this would be one of those defining life moments….

Come forth into the light of things…

The trail guides you along, zigzagging over waterfall, upon waterfall…yes, more water. My nemesis.  But luckily for me, some of it was covered in snow and it was easier to follow along side of the falls.

This climb was gentle for all of 5 minutes…and then the real work began!  There is no reprieve on this trail.  None.  No leveling out of the land.  No landings. Just straight up an incline the entire 2 miles.  Up.  No ladders either.  Up, up, up….one foot in front the other…

keep breathing, keep moving…slow and steady. My backpack felt like I was carrying a small elephant on my back besides!

There was a enough snow on the ground for microspikes, but not enough for snowshoes (even those they were with me!) The heel lifts would have aided in the navigation and upward battle of this trail.  But alas, I kept pushing on….

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Breathtaking...as in, “literally sucking the breath out of me” and  “beauty so stunning, I cannot find my breath.”  Yes..this was that kind of climb.  I actually think the snow was my savior…cushioning the trail underneath each step.

Again, the snow glistened more brilliantly as the cloudless sky gave freedom to the shining sun. Everything was illuminated…you really must visit these trails in the winter.

I wouldn’t take any picture until I almost reached the cairn by Boundary Peak.  One, because there was a water crossing where I almost didn’t make it.  And two, there was a pretty steep rock slide covered in ice where I almost didn’t make it as well.

The crossing of the falls had some rocks that were further apart than usual…making it challenging to rock hop, especially for this girl with short legs!  An assessment of every possible route across occurred for a few minutes…I tried and then hopped back.

My winter boots were not waterproof (yea, I know…) so I was nervous about submerging my feet if I missed a rock.  My pack was as heavy as ever and honestly, throwing off my balance.  So I hopped across two rocks…and threw my pack to the bank on the other side,, praying it would make it!

Then I just went for it! I channeled my inner dancer and leapt across to the teeny-tiny rock  that was next….I faltered and almost fell backwards! But somehow, I made it…miraculously…as if a hand reached out and grabbed mine to save me. My heart was pounding and my legs felt shaky….but onward I went!

This would be the exact experience of my next quest…the rock slide was wide and open. There weren’t many places to anchor myself or grab hold of.  I dug my spikes into the ice 7848419932_dcc286ca9cand snow the best I could…again, my pack weighing me down.

I didn’t look down…just one foot, one hand, other foot, other hand…

Courage is learning when to hang on…and at my next move, I did just that! I panicked. It was the first time hiking that I’ve truly panicked!

I froze and then…I started to slip.  And then…I did the worst thing one could possibly do in this situation…I looked down!  DON’T ever do that!

My focus was broken, my grip loosened…prayers…I said something out loud, asking for help.  Again, strength took over and hauled me up to the top…just far enough to grab a nearby tree!

Once on stable ground, I broke down in tears.  There was still so much further to climb…and I was weary, physically and emotionally spent.  After a good cry, I picked myself up, brushed off the snow, and forged ahead.

It would be very slow going from here on out…bouts of tears and yelling at myself to make it to the top.

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At 1:45 p.m., I reached the cairn at the Boundary Peak junction.  I would sit here for a bit to eat my peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chug some Gatorade.  So just over Boundary and then onto Iroquois…

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Except…there are a few humps on your way to Iroquois, so I dropped my pack here at the cairn and hauled it!

There were a few hikers to and fro on this unmarked trail as well. Follow the cairns….

At 2:12 p.m., the summit of Iroquois!! This would be my #12 High Peak on my journey! Iroquois Peak is the 8th highest peak, standing at 4840 feet high!  It was very windy as well!

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Looking back at Boundary (which seems miniscule in comparison) and Algonquin Peak.img_0032

Another 45 minutes, and I was back to my pack at the cairn…then the ascent of Algonquin began.  The air felt very thin to me…so I just climbed from cairn to cairn, following the yellow painted markers until I reached the summit.

Come forth into the light of things…

At 3:16 p.m., the summit of Algonquin for lucky number 13!  Algonquin is the 2nd highest peak in New York, standing at 5115 feet high.  It was incredible!!!

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Thankful for the other hiker for taking my photograph.  Mount Colden and Miss Marcy behind me…as well as the Great Range.  Beyond wondrous….truly magical.

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I would take one more break here to rest, recharge and refuel.  Hot chocolate and some protein bars…gazing at the snow-covered slides before me.  Again, I could have stayed here forever.  I was truly at peace.  Peaceful and free.

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In an attempt to capture the essence of this summit, I shot this 360 view video:

You can hear the wind blowing…but it did not bother me.  Absolutely fascinating!

Time to head over to Wright Peak…praying I had it in me to make #14!

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The descent from Algonquin was the next BEST part of this journey!  Once back on the trail…the butt sliding extravaganza began!!! I literally slid down most of the trail to the junction of Wright Peak.  You could hear me “WOOHOOing” all the way down the mountain! #wishihadaGoPro

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Once again, I dropped my pack here and trudged up the .4 mile to the summit!

At 4:54 p.m., Wright Peak was my #14 and is the 16th highest peak, standing at 4580 feet!

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I met some hikers on their descent here…as I would continue to the summit.  Footing was tricky and steep! Wright is known for its crazy winds…but I have to say, the winds were relatively mild.

I snapped this photo of Heart Lake and Mount Jo (you can even see Whiteface in the distance!) before making the long descent back to the Loj.

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The journey back was trying on my body and mind…I stopped often for moments at a time.  Tears were shed once again as my feet throbbed.  I plunked myself down on a rock at one point around 6 p.m. and removed my boots for a moment.  I prayed for someone to carry me out of there!

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At 6:30 p.m., the junction back to the Van Ho trail was reached…just .9 miles to go….

I would sign out of the register at 7 p.m.

Total time: 11 hours plus 3 stops and many tears.

Total distance: 14 miles and change

Come forth into the light of things….

This hike, this journey, would become my most cherished! It was full of adventure, serenity, fear, pain and ultimately victory.  The vibrancy of life and my surroundings left handprints on my heart that will remain with me forever, no matter what.come-forth-into-the-light-of-things-let-nature-be-your-teacher-403x403-nk2191

Nature is the world’s greatest teacher.  Allow her to soak through your bones.  Allow her to guide your soul.  Allow her to fill you with hope and love of all that is waiting for you…like it has for me.

Yes, still i rise,

-J

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